Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New beginnings. 

The beginning of a new school year always sparks a lot of emotions for parents. It's a fresh start, a new beginning, and just one more sign that your baby is growing up.    There are few first days of school bigger than Kindergarten.  It's the first, first day!  

When Emma started Kindergarten I was so excited for her.  She was eager to learn and ready to go.  She was so grown up and independent at 5.  She was confident and outspoken.  She still is really. I never worried for one second how she would handle school.   I never worried if she would be able to find her classroom on her own or eat her lunch on her own.  I never worried that she wouldn't be able to undo her belt by herself.    She loved to write, color, and couldn't wait to read.    School just suited her. School has proven to always be easy for her. 

Jax on the other hand..... He is the complete opposite.  He has no interest in learning unless it's about stars, planets, weather or Japan.  I'm not entirely sure the boy knows his alphabet and I can barely get him to write his name.  I know he probably does know those things but he's too hardheaded to show me.  He still pretends he can't put on pants by himself!   I worry he won't be able to open things at lunch and is so stubborn he won't ask for help. I worry that his temper will get him in trouble. I worry that he will be the class clown.  I worry that he won't be able to undo his belt and he'll pee in his pants. Heck, I worry he'll get so distracted and forget to ask to go pee if he needs too.  I worry that school will be hard for him or that he will struggle. 

Is he really ready for this?  Am I ready for this?  Maybe he should stay home one more year?  Maybe I've babied him way too much?  Maybe he just pretends to not be able to do stuff because he knows I'll do it?  Maybe I'm just not ready for him to grow up.   

You see he is my sweet surprise. He is the boy that God knew I needed before I knew I needed him.  He was my wonderful distraction in some of my darkest days.  Being pregnant with and having Jax just over a month after losing Maddie in many ways kept me from completely losing my sh*t in those first couple of months.  I know logically that makes no sense because of the postpartum roller coaster having a child usually is but somehow he kept me grounded, motivated and focused.  So maybe I'm not ready for him to be independent?  Maybe I need him more than he knows. Maybe that's why this first, first day of school is really hard on this  momma.  

Tomorrow, on his first, first day we will both grow up and let go just a tiny bit. There is also a strong possibility that one of us will "ugly cry".  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Language Barrier

When you are a visitor in a foreign land you expect some language difficulty but in many parts of the world you can at least read the letters and try to figure it out.  In Japan their letters look like lines  and squiggles.  Very cool lines and squiggles but lines and squiggles nonetheless.  

When we landed in Japan we spoke exactly twelve words of Japanese and ten of those were the numbers 1-10.    Thanks Hwang's Martial Arts Judo classes for preparing us with numbers 1-10!   We could read exactly zero words!   Luckily for us, Japan seems to really cater to foreigners.  Almost every important sign is written in Japanese and in English!  For awhile I had Jax convinced I could read Japanese before Emma informed him that the signs also had English words on them. Thanks for spoiling my fun kiddo!  All of the train announcements are also in English too which made things really easy.

One of the funniest language barrier conversations that we had was with sweet Japanese girl working at Disneyland.   She commented on our shirts and tried to make small talk. Our foreignness clearly stuck out like sore thumbs.  It could have been my blonde haired, blue eyed daughter, or my Goliath sized bald husband, or the fact that when anyone spoke to us we all looked confused.  She asked where we were from.  My mother-in-law responded to the girl's question with "Ohio".  The girl stopped midsentence, gave us a small bow, and said "Oh, Good Morning, How are you?"     Now this was a little odd because we had been having a conversation with her in broken English so a "good morning" right in the middle didn't really fit.  She then asked again where we were from and my mother-in-law again responded with "Ohio".  The girl looked puzzled but again said "Good morning".  Finally, my brother-in-law realized what was happening and intervened.  It turns out that state of  "Ohio" sounds exactly like the Japanes word "Ohayo" which means "Good Morning".   After  Mike explained that to all of us we seemed much less crazy to this poor girl.    We also tried to explain to the young girl that we were from Kentucky.  She had never heard of Kentucky so Fred asked her if she'd heard of KFC.  There are KFC's all over Japan so she knew what KFC was.  Fred said we were from there.   No one bothered to clarify this so this poor girl probably thinks we are from a chicken restaurant in the US (and not even a good chicken restaurant).

Another interesting place to not speak or read the language is a restaurant.  If we had not had Mike with us we would have starved. If the restaurant doesn't have an English menu then you are left to chance ordering by picture.  Totally risky if you're not an adventurous eater, you're picky, or have a food allergy.  Japanese restaurants all have displays of their typical dishes out front. It makes everything either look really good or the half a squid on the place totally scares you off.   Again, eating in Japan is just odd if you don't speak the language.

In the end we learned the the major phrases.  Excuse me, thank you, I'm sorry, good morning and good afternoon.   Enough to get us by or at least get someone's attention to ask for help!  We even used our knowledge of the numbers 1-10 while at Disney.  There were roku people in our group.  The Japanese people are so friendly and willing to help that it made the language barrier way less stressful!  Oh and my brother-in-law speaks some Japanese so he kept us alive and kept us from embarrassing ourselves.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Morning Commute

You've probably heard that Tokyo Japan is one of the most populous cities in the world.   That is really a hard concept to imagine, that is until you board a morning commuter train into the city.   If you live in New York, Chicago, or Atlanta you might think you've seen a lot of commuters but I promise you that you haven't seen anything like a Tokyo train or the Tokyo train station.

One thing that Jax wanted to do while in Japan was take a train. His Uncle Mikey was happy to make that happen.   We took our first train to dinner one night. Let's call it a test run.  Mike helped us dumb Americans figure out how to purchase train tickets and navigate the train station.   Seriously, we were like herding cats through the station and getting us on the right train.   It was late evening when we took that first train so it really wasn't super crowded and we only went like two stops.   We made it to dinner and back and no one was harmed or left behind.  Success!

Mike might have been over confident about our train taking ability because he decided that we should take the train to Tokyo Disneyland the next day. It was a two hour train ride or a two hour car ride so our options were limited.    This would be a major test for the dumb American train novices.  This trip would involve an hour and twenty minute train ride from the train station nearest to Mike's  house into the heart of Tokyo and then a train change for another thirty minute train trip to the Disney station.  Oh and for added fun we were going to do this during the height of morning rush hour.  

Mike helped us purchase train cards so that we could load our money for train fares onto it for easier commuting.   We made the mistake of not purchasing cards for the kids because we (Mike included), thought  we could use our cards to pay for the kids.  Apparently the card can only be swiped once for one person to board the train.  This fact will come in handy later.

When we boarded our train it was standing room only so we got the typical Japanese commuter experience. Poor Fred was the largest guy on the train and at least a head taller than everyone! The train was filled with students in school uniforms and Japanese workers all in their work attire. On a side note: I will say that the majority of Japanese are better dressers than most Americans when it comes to work. Most men wear black or blue slacks with a well fitted white or light blue dress shirt.   Women all dress very conservatively with long shirts, a nice blouse, and conservative shoes.  All in very muted colors like khakis, black or navy.  It's almost like the work day uniform.

The trains in Japan are strangely quiet.  No one talks and if they do it's almost in whispers. Many people spend their train ride looking at their phone or catching a nap.  There are signs and announcements asking that all phones be silenced and that you refrain from talking on the phone.  It's a rule that no one breaks. You can imagine how well the loud Americans with little Rosebushes went over on a quiet train!  One other observation that I made while on the train is how orderly they seem to be. You would expect that a train stuffed with 400 people would be semi-chaotic but everyone rushes on and off in a very orderly fashion.  In the stations people quietly and politely stand in line waiting for the train.   People are in a hurry but not so much that they would willingly be rude to each other.  It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the USA.   Train cleanliness was also astounding.  The trains in Japan are so very clean unlike America where most trains smell mildly of urine or vomit at all times. There is no trash or graffiti on the trains either. The Japanese wouldn't dare leave trash on the train it's just part of their culture.

Our first train ride was long so we quickly learned as people got off and freed up seats that we needed to move quickly to grab one.  After about the fifth stop we were all able to snag a seat for the remainder of the ride.  When the train finally arrived in the Tokyo station we immediately started our trek from one train to the other.  We had fifteen minutes to travel about half a mile through one of the busiest mazes that you can imagine.  The train station is wall to wall people moving in all directions.  Again, all moving in an orderly fashion as quickly as possible to their destination.   There are also very specific train station rules that are unwritten but ALWAYS followed.  For example, on the escalators if you are going to stand you stand on the left in a single file line so that people who wish to walk may make walk quickly on the right. Stairs and moving sidewalks are the same way; if you're slow keep left.  Traversing the train station with two small children is extra special because at one point we were practically dragging them along.  We were practically running and following Mike to the next train but we made it.  The second train to Disney was significantly less crowded so we were able to sit comfortably on that one.

We made it to the station next to Disney and exited the train. We proceeded to the station exit and Fred scanned his card and sent Emma through the turnstile, then he scanned it again for himself.  The little gates closed indicating there was an issue with money or the card.  So Emma, who is outside the station and Fred who is inside the station had to go to the window and figure out what was up.  I was able to exit just fine and so was Fred's Mom so we waited while Mike, Fred, and the kids sorted out the train fare.  Remember when I said the cards we bought could only be used by one person, this is where we found that out.  In an effort to make the dumb Americans feel less dumb the train station employee let the kids go through without a ticket.   Yep, my kids freeloaded all the way to Disney.  I'm sure that's against the law.

At the end of the day we repeated the scenario in reverse back to Mike's home, except we paid for the kids this time!  They kids also passed out on the train on the way back because Disney is tiring!   The next day we did it all again but this time Fred and I managed to buy our own tickets and load our card without Mike's assistance!  We even bought the kids tickets correctly!  We were practically Japanese at this point!   We knew our stops and what train line to take without Mike's help as well.  I was so impressed with our train taking new knowledge.      In a truly expert train taker move, when we boarded our long train home at the end of the night Mike used his butt as a blocker to score six seats for us all to sit down together.  This is a feat greater than a miracle and only one Japanese man was almost sat on during this process. 

In the end we all survived the trains in Tokyo but I'm not sure that we are cut out for Tokyo mass transit.  I'm also not sure that Tokyo mass transit could handle the little Rosebushes on a regular basis. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Doing your business

There are so many great things I could write about our trip to Japan but today I'm going to focus on toilets. Yep, you read that right, this whole entry is about toilets!   Arguably, Japan has the greatest toilets in the entire world. It's really one of the things that I will miss the most about being on the other side of the world. 

Like most children, as soon as we stepped off of the plane from our glorious 13 hour flight, Emma needed to use the bathroom.  We located the nearest bathroom and Emma rushed into the stall. I heard her yell, " MOM!  You've got to see this toilet!"  The Japanese lady in the bathroom started laughing and asked if she had ever been to Japan.  I responded with a laugh and an obvious no.  Emma continued to go on and on from behind the stall door about how many buttons this toilet had.  Finally it was my turn to go.  I entered the stall and this is what awaited me. 
You see, this sucker has an entire control panel!  It really is overwhelming at first.  There are options for everything!  This particular model isn't even one of the fancy ones.  During our time in Japan I encountered toilets with lots of options.  Almost every toilet had a "privacy" option which means your toilet makes rainforest type sounds to cover up any sounds that your bum make when you're doing your business.  There were bidet options for both your backside and your lady bits.  You could also control the flow at which the bidet squirted your parts.  The fancy toilets had a drying option that would blow you bits dry after some bidet action.  The really fancy toilets has a heated seat feature, not really necessary in the summer but cool nonetheless.  Now,  I remind you that these are PUBLIC toilets so everyone gets to enjoy all the cool features.  Sometimes the toilets even had a futuristic control panel on the wall to display all of their glorious options and in case you were overwhelmed, they had instructions which were in both Japanese and English! 
Going to the bathroom in Japan was a good time in and of itself but going to the bathroom with your 5 year old son in tow is extra special!  Most of the time the women's bathroom is cleaner than the men's so my littlest Rosebush likes to tag along with me.  I usually let him do his business and then wait while I do mine.  Little Rosebush poops a lot,  like 3 times a day.  TMI, I know but hey, you're already reading a blog about toilets so what the heck.  He sat down to do his business and like every curious little boy he started pushing toilet buttons.  He squirted himself in the butt and squealed with fright.  "What the heck?  The toilet just squirted water on my butt!"   I explained to him that was a feature that some people like and he said that he absolutely did not.    He finished his business and then it was my turn.  As I used the bathroom my little guy pushed every button on the wall.  I got squirted in all the unmentionables while my little guy just laughed.  Good times! 

We got used to the fancy pants toilets in most public bathrooms but occasionally, you would run into a bathroom that was a little old school to say the least. 
This my friends is called a squat toilet.  It's basically exactly what it look like, a porcelain hole on the floor that you are expected to pee (or even worse) into.  Now, I wasn't particularly excited about this idea but it drove Emma to tears.  She was so freaked out by this that she actually cried.  She was so nervous about peeing on her pants.  Apparently my kid is a city girl who has never peed in the woods!  It took about 10 minutes of coaching and a demonstration to convince her that she could do it.    After a mild anxiety attack she finally used the bathroom and no pants or shoes were harmed.  Thank goodness she just had to pee!  Squatty Potties  as I called them were really not my favorite because lets face it, I don't like to be any closer to a public bathroom floor than is absolutely necessary.  Emma wanted to experience Japanese culture while we were in Japan and it doesn't get more Japanese than this! 
It's a little disappointing to come back to the USA and the fanciest toilet we have is one that flushes itself.   Farewell Japanese toilets, until we meet again! 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I've decided to do a quick blog series about our international adventure.  If you know my family you know that it will be packed with chaos and hilarity.

My kids are pretty much professional travelers.  They have the security process down at the airport better than most adults.  They know how to board a plane, find their seats, shove their bags under the seat, and buckle in.  They typically do pretty well with entertaining themselves for the duration of the flight.  It's really like second nature for them.

Despite their professional status, absolutely nothing can prepare you or your children for the kind of torture that 13 hours on a metal tube cruising through the sky.  We have a habit of measuring time in Scooby Doo episodes.  It helps the kids get a better idea of just how long something is.  Until this trip Emma's longest plane trip was eight Scooby's or 4 hours.  Jaxon's was only about four Scooby's.  It was inconceivable to the kids that our flight to Tokyo was an astounding twenty-six Scooby's.  

We tried to prep them as best we could for the long haul flight but if you know the little Rosebushes you know that still and quiet is something they don't do very well.  In fact many people called me completely insane for even attempting this flight with kids!  I was petrified of what would happen when a mid-flight  meltdown occured. I did everything I could think of to prep them.  I let them pack their own carry on bags.  I bought some new plane friendly games and toys specifically for the trip.  I added some new games to their iPads in the hopes that something new and fresh would keep their attention.  I knew the airplane would have seat back entertainment so they could watch movies.  I also brought some melatonin just in case the kids or myself needed a little help taking a nap.

We boarded our plane at 12:25 in the afternoon and I was the lucky one that got to sit between both my kids in the very back row, in the middle section of a 777.    Fred and his mother were crammed next to each other, next to the window, and an extremely large man just across the aisle.  After seeing the aforementioned very large man, I was sort of thankful to be stuck with the kids.  The kids settled into their seats and immediately started playing with the seatback entertainment.  There was a large selection of movies for them to watch and even games to play.  Crisis #1 occured before we even left the gate when Jaxon's screen froze.  Luckily it was only temporary and after all the preflight announcements it came back to life.  As soon as we were in the air Jax needed to pee!  He is obsessed with airplane bathrooms so I totally expected 47 bathroom breaks during the 13 airborne hours. Lucky for us, our last row seats put us next to the bathrooms because my guesstimate was pretty accurate.

I had the forethought to request special children's meals for the kids when I booked the tickets.  This was the best decision I have ever made.  The kids meals turned out to be things my very picky children would actually eat.  The first meal was a hot dog, the snack was a ham sandwich, and breakfast before landing was pancakes.   Honestly, I was slightly jealous of the pancakes.     I was worried the kids wouldn't eat airplane food but thankfully this was a non-issue.  

I had hoped the kids would sleep some on the plane but no luck.  Emma slept maybe five minutes and Jax finally dozed off about an hour from Tokyo.  In their defense, this was the most turbulent flight I've ever been on.  We bounced around a lot for most of the flight.  Even the flight attendants seemed thrown off by the constant turbulence.  Every time I'd settle in to close my eyes my head would bounce off the seat.  I will say that the flight crew and flight attendants on this flight were very amazing given how rough the flight was, it can't be easy to do these long haul flights.

I did manage to watch four movies on the flight which is probably the most movies I've seen all year.  Jax watched Trolls three times.  Emma watched several movies until her screen froze about 4 hours from Tokyo.  This caused crisis #2!  Despite the bag full of things she'd brought to do and the iPad with games and shows in it; she couldn't possibly function!  She had a meltdown complete with tears because she was sooooooo bored.   We played a few super competitive games of Uno and then I let her watch a movie on my screen while I tried to nap.  There would be no napping though because Jax needed me to entertain him and take him to the bathroom several times.  All in all, the kids were amazing given the fact that we were trapped in a very small space for a very long time.  No one needed medication or a stiff drink!  I'd call that success.

Finally, after 13 long hours it was wheels down at Narita airport in Tokyo!   This is where the real fun begins.  Stay tuned this week for more blog entries about visiting a country where you can't speak or read the language and your kids hate all the food!  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This was a first. . .

Normally I am a pretty rational and level headed parent. Normally,  I am the parent who welcomes disappointment for my children in certain circumstances because I know that disappointment is part of life. I believe this is a lesson best learned early. I know disappointment is how we grow and make ourselves better.  I am usually the first Mom to say toughen up and get over it. I usually refuse to let my kids even say the words "that's not fair".  I tell my kids that not everything in life is fair and they should learn it now.   They know if they want something they have to work for it until they achieve it. I am the parent who hates sports leagues that don't keep score and give participation trophies past a certain age.
Today,  was the day that something changed...
Let me give you a little back story first.  You probably know that Emma is heavily involved in taekwondo and Judo. Yes, my kids kicks butt if I do say so myself.  She's worked hard and is currently 2 belts away from her black belt.   She has gone from 2 nights a week training to sometimes 3 or 4. She joined the demo team because she likes showing off her skills. She also joined the Dream Team. Dream Team is a special team for kids 8 and up to start learning to be leaders in class. Dream Team kids start to take on a bigger role. Emma asked if she could join in May even though she wasn't 8. She'd been doing TKD for a year and a half at that point so she was given the go ahead.   She attended her Dream team classes faithfully each week since May.   She only missed a few class here and there for vacations and things.     Dream Team kids also test, like a belt test, for their place on Dream Team.   There are several levels of achievement within Dream Team each having requirements that grow more difficult as you move up. Let's just say it's a big deal and to an 8 year old it's the world.
Emma has been studying her TKD handbook to learn her terminology, forms, and curriculum. She has really pushed herself. Today, was test day!  She happily got up and showered at 5AM. So she could be on time. The test was from 7-12 and judging by the red faces  and smell of sweat in the air at the end; I'd say it's pretty intense.  Emma was testing for her first "level" on Dream Team which typically means a new uniform.   The Dream Team uniform looks very similar to a black belt uniform and until today I had no idea just how much it meant to Emma.   So, here's where this gets complicated.  When you test for Dream Team and are above a certain belt level you simply aren't given a uniform because you will be getting a new black belt uniform within a year.   I had explained that to Emma a hundred times before today.  I assumed when I dropped her off that she knew, understood and was ok with this.   Parents are not  allowed to stay and watch the testing process but I assume she worked hard for 5 hours because she was one hot little girl when I got there.   During the super cool ceremony at  then end where they let each student know if they passed or not Emma was announced as  having passed. She proudly walked down a line formed by all of her fellow students and shook hands with all the Masters, Instructors, and Team Leaders.   Somehow there was a breakdown in communication and Emma and her friend were given uniforms and told to change. Emma did what she was told and emerged from the changing room with a new uniform on. I'm clearly confused because this wasn't supposed to happen. Maybe I missed something?  Emma, ran back to the mats to join her class beaming with pride.   This is when the mistake was discovered. Emma was then told that she couldn't keep the uniform because of all the reasons I mentioned before.    Everyone was so kind, caring and encouraging to her. Everyone tried to make her feel better but it didn't work. She came to me sobbing.   I knew ahead of time she wasn't supposed to get the uniform so I tried to remind her of that. She looked at me with her sad blue eyes and said "I know Mom. I thought that they made an exception for me and Ellie because we worked extra hard and never gave up. Just like they let us join before we were 8. Just like our black belt philosophies."    Again, rational me tried to tell her to get over it because rules are rules. She said to me, "I know what they're saying Mom about getting a black belt uniform soon but THIS uniform is different. I earned THIS one too!  They're not the same. I worked for this like I'm working for all my belts. I have nothing to show for my hard work now. I won't be a black belt for almost a year."  I was so moved my her words that I cried with her.   I cried for her!  This was a disappointment that she truly couldn't understand. She used the logic that I've always taught her and  this didnt seem to agree.   In her 8 year old brain she sees her Dream Team and Black Belt uniforms as something totally separate. They don't connect for her and in her head they shouldn't.   They are both separate achievements that she is working toward. The uniforms for each achievement may look similar but in her head they represent different things. You can easily become a black belt without doing Dream Team,  why should she be limited to only one uniform.   As I helped her change she continued to give me her reasons for being upset. She said that because other kids haven't been training as long as her and are lower belts she feels like she's being penalized for training longer. She said she couldn't start Dream Team earlier because of her age so this was not fair. After all she'll be a black belt before she turns 9!
Normally, this phrase makes me come unglued but as I listened to her reason and logic tears fell for her.  I was sad that this was a disappointment that I couldn't make better. Maybe I cried because for once I knew she actually listens when I talk because she totally got what I had taught her. She thought  in those moment when she was given a uniform that her hard work had more than paid off. She thought that despite the belt rank rule she had earned that uniform. Taekwondo is the first place she has seen hard work and determination pay off and today she felt betrayed by it. She felt betrayed by me too and that made me sad.
As a parent this was a tough day for me.  I taught her this lesson about hard work and determination and one mistake blew up in my face. The mistake wasn't intentional at all and I'm sure no one anticipated how it would play out in an 8 year old head.  I'm sure no one anticipated that she would think that one exception to a rule meant there could be more.   I know I didn't think she would assume she could do so good that they would bend the rules.  When I asked why she would assume this she said, "at tournament we were supposed to get Eagle, Dragon, or Tiger in our groups.  Ellie and I were so good we both earned Eagle.  No one had to get dragon!"    How the heck can I argue with that?  That's pretty deep thinking for an 8 year old.
This was a first for me. I've been betrayed by my own logic and parenting.   I'm sure this isn't the first time she will be hugely disappointed and nothing I say will make it better but this might be the first time I listened to her and share the same disappointment now that understand where it come from. 
If I have learned anything from her involvement in martial arts I have learned that this will not stop her, it probably won't even slow her down.  I will hurt for awhile and I will allow her to hurt as long as she needs too.  I know that her instructors and leaders will work to lift her up and encourage her.  I know that they will keep  pushing her.  I just hope this disappointment doesn't damage her sweet innocence and trust for the future. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Normally I write about my kids and the wild things they do. But today I want to write about me.   I want to write about all the cool things that have happened over the last month or so. It's really been the culmination of God's work over some time but it's amazing to stand outside myself and see all of this come full circle.   Warning; this is long because I have to give you lots of background to make my point.

Let me start back when Fred and I first became Fred and I.   You see we were young, dumb, wild college kids.  We did everything young dumb college kids do.   I met him on a sort of blind date at a gay bar. Yes, you read that right, I met my husband at a gay bar.   That's a whole different story, for a whole different blog. We dated for a while and decided toward the end of college that we'd been dating long enough we should probably get hitched. So we did. I moved from my parents house to his tiny one bedroom apartment with all my worldly possessions and a 4 year old special needs daughter. At this point Fred had already accepted Maddie as his own and we planned for the future. Church and God didn't really factor into our plans. It wasn't that we didn't believe in God we just weren't really worried about what God had to say about our lives. Did I mention that we were young and dumb?   We just carried on through life doing our own thing. We worked opposite shifts for a while to make sure someone could be with Maddie. Sure it wasn't fun but she was our life.   We moved to another city,  it didn't work out so back home we came.  Eventually we decided we might want to have another kiddo, so we decided to get to work on that. Emma Catherine joined the Rosebush clan on October 9, 2008 and we were the Rosebush party of 4.   Things were good!  We continued living our lives according to what we wanted to do.   We even got the sweetest surprise in 2011.  We were going to welcome another baby to our family. I was pregnant once again.

Our lives would change drastically on January 17, 2012 in a way we were never prepared for.   I started my day like any other day. I got up, got dressed, kissed my husband, kissed my girls and went to work. Hours later into my work day got a call from a frantic, screaming, incoherent Fred. He asked me to call 911 because he went to get Maddie out of bed and she wasn't breathing. I don't know why he called me instead of 911. The only explanation I have is that he was in shock and my number was on speed dial. I called 911 and left my office. I don't even know if I said anything to anyone. I just left in a full sprint. I was nearly 8 months pregnant so I'm sure it was more of a waddle.  I left my job on Chamberlain Lane and headed toward PRP.   I called Fred back to see if EMS arrived. He didn't answer,  a policeman did. This poor policeman asked me to pull over and I refused. I told him I wasn't stopping until I got home to my family. He politely suggest that I stop for a moment and I refused. I asked him to just tell me what was going on. He said the words that I had dreaded since Madison was born. He told me over the phone, while driving 80 on the Watterson, that my daughter was gone.   There is no way to be prepared for that. All the breathe in my lungs left me instantly and a piece of my heart died. I somehow managed to ask how Fred and Emma were and he said they were ok. I hung up. I screamed at the top of my lungs in my car. I cried. I called everyone I could think of and some how managed to tell them all that Maddie was gone. I have no idea how I got home. NONE!  I was on autopilot.   When I got home I was numb. I couldn't speak. I couldn't think. I just sat down. I was met with probably 5 police officers who were nothing but kind to me.   They even called one of their chaplains to come sit with us.   The paramedics were worried about me because I was obviously super pregnant and my blood pressure was through the roof.   Everyone was so kind that day.   The next few hours and days were a blur as we prepared to have a funeral for our child. It was rough. I don't know how we made it,  I really don't.  People were in and out and so very helpful and I was probably a fat pregnant jerk because I was so consumed with guilt and anger that I didn't appreciate any of it.

After everything settled down I was so angry at God. How could he take Maddie away from us?  In fact I was more than angry,  I was pissed!  Why would God bless us with a sweet little boy on the way and then take Maddie away?  Why didn't I get to say goodbye?    I had not time or use for God. I was angry. I'm not sure why I was so angry at God since he really had no place in my life in the previous few years. I'm not sure what I expected or why my anger was directed at God.

Fred and I carried on with life the best you can when you lose a child. We welcomed Jaxon in March of 2012 just 6 weeks after we buried Maddie. It was so bittersweet to welcome a new baby while mourning the loss of another. Again, I'm not sure how we made it.

In the fall of 2012 we thought it was important for Emma to have some normalcy in her life and hang out with other kids her age so we enrolled her in preschool. We sent her to Christian Academy of Louisville, where she continues even now. While at school she would learn Bible songs and Bible stories. She would come home and tell us these stories and ask us questions. She started to ask to go to church. Again, being the angry pissed off person I was I wasn't really interested in going to church but I thought it might be good for her. So Fred and I started looking for a church to go to.   I was skeptical and kind of a church snob. Some churches were too big, some were too small. Some weren't friendly and others the friendliness felt insincere. I was frustrated and ready to give up. Until one day we decided to try this Baptist church down the street. We pass it everyday, and they just built a new sanctuary so why not try it. We showed up on Sunday morning with both kids in tow. Neither one of them were super excited about church. We were immediately greeted by a lady named Pam. Pam opened the door for us and welcomed us in. We must have looked really confused because she asked if it was our first time here. We said yes and she asked us if we wanted to take our kids to the nursery.       Now,  if you've every lost a child you start to become  super overprotective of your remaining children. You rarely leave your kids with anyone!  When Pam asked the nursery question it seemed ok so we said sure. She left her post at the door and she walked with us all the way to the nursery. She could have easily just point us in the right direction and moved on but she didn't. I don't know why this was so important  but it was. She seemed genuine and seemed to care that we were there.   Weird,  I hadn't gotten that before. Now, Pam still talks to us weekly at church and probably doesn't even know that she was the reason that we came back the next week. Her kindness that day changed something for me.   We've never left that church. It instantly be came home.

We slowly decided to get involved. We started in the nursery because it seemed only fair I left my screaming boy with them each week I should help out.   We've now started teaching Sunday School, helping on Wednesday nights, and coaching upwards. It's been so rewarding working with the kids and seeing them grow. We've met so many awesome Christian people at Beechland. They've welcomed us with open arms and made us family. Last year when our home was broken into right before Christmas the church rallied around us. We were overwhelmed with financial support and prayer from people we've barely met.  I asked why would people be so kind, the only possible answer: GOD.    This was the first time I really got it.  I really saw God's hand working.

Just this month Emma decided to go forward at church and get baptized.  It was such an awesome, moving, overwhelming experience to see your child make such an important decision.  Words can't express how grateful I am to our church for helping her to this decision.

Shortly after Emma's baptism Fred got a letter in the mail letting him know that some one in the church nominated him to become a deacon.  Now, if you've know Fred for any amount of time you would have instantly laughed at this notion.  Fred and I discussed it and decided that he should follow through on this.  He went through the obvious questions.  Who the heck would nominate me?  Why me?  Do I really want to do this?    I encouraged him to prayerfully consider this opportunity.  I reminded him that sometime others see things in us that we do not see.  I reminded him that he has an opportunity to be a leader in our church into the future.  Like all good husbands do, he agreed with me.  He decided to follow through on his nomination and last night he was ordained a deacon by the church.

Last night we attended the ordination service for the new deacons.  There were 5 awesome, faithful, Christian men who stood in front of our church last night and gave their testimony.  I mean, really awesome men!  I wasn't really prepared for how emotional their testimonies would be, including my husband's and I know his!  After all the men spoke, their wives were invited to join them, and the church lined up to pray with each man (and wife) individually.  It was so powerful.  If felt so awesome!  It was amazing to see the entire church come together and lift these guys up.  It was moving to see and hear how much Fred (and myself) mean to our church family.  It's weird when you're just cruising through life, doing what you feel like you should be doing, you can touch people.
I left there feeling energized and touched, probably more faithful than ever.  I'm so proud of my husband and look forward to awesome things to come for him.  I felt that he joined a brotherhood of amazing men last night and I can't wait to see the positive things they do for the church.  God is blessing Beechland and my family.  I'm so glad I got to see that last night.